1. Defense Budget: Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter: Sequestration Would Demonstrate Failure of Resolve
If Congress fails to de-trigger the sequestration mechanism in budget law that will impose across-the-board defense spending cuts March 1, it could demonstrate to allies and enemies that the United States lacks the resolve, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said here today.
"The world is watching us," he said. "Our friends and our enemies are watching us, ... and they need to know that we have the political will to forestall sequestration."
Carter also emphasized the importance of passing the defense appropriations bill, explaining that operating on a continuing resolution in lieu of a fiscal year budget has costs in terms of efficiency and waste on contracts with the defense industrial base.
"It's pretty dispiriting to see the waste associated with it," he said. "And a good measure of the impact on the industrial base is this: even if we furloughed everybody -- every DOD civilian, all 800,000 of them -- for the maximum we're allowed to do it legally, we'd get $5 billion out of the $46 billion we need.
Read more: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119303 
Resolution No. 55: Protecting the Defense Budget
Resolution No. 63: Rebuild America's Defense Industrial Base http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2224/2012N063.pdf?s... 
2. Troop Drawdown: Panetta Offers Campaign Context
The president's announcement Tuesday that 34,000 U.S. troops will come out of Afghanistan in the next 12 months makes sense in the context of the broader campaign, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday.
"The president's decision, announced last night, ... puts us firmly on a path, I believe, to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan," he said.
The secretary said he's confident the new ISAF commander, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., "will have the combat power he needs to protect our forces and to continue building up the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces."
National Commander Koutz responded: "American Legion service officers stand ready to support our men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and help them understand their VA benefits," Koutz said. "American Legion-sponsored job fairs and business workshops await their return, offering opportunities to convert military experience into successful careers. American Legion posts and individual members are available for those who come home wondering where to turn for camaraderie and support. That is what we do. It is who we are."
Read more: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119291 
Read American Legion Commander's full response at: http://www.legion.org/security/213825/commander-welcomes-home-returning-... 
3. Hagel nomination: Senate Republicans stonewall
Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) in a 58-40 procedural vote Thursday, delaying his confirmation for at least another week.
Democrats were just one Republican vote away from getting to 60 votes — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) switched his vote for procedural reasons — but their efforts to confirm Hagel this week fell short.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement after the vote that "for the first time in American history, Senate Republicans filibustered a nominee for secretary of Defense."
The White House and Pentagon had hoped that Hagel would have been in place in order to travel to Brussels next week for a NATO defense ministers meeting. Panetta's last day at the Pentagon was Thursday, although he will remain on as Defense secretary until his successor is in place.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/policy-and-strategy/283347-overnigh... 
1. North Korea tells China of preparations for fresh nuclear test
North Korea has told its key ally, China, that it is prepared to stage one or even two more nuclear tests this year in an effort to force the United States into diplomatic talks with Pyongyang, said a source with direct knowledge of the message.
The isolated regime conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing global condemnation and a stern warning from the United States that it was a threat and a provocation.
"It's all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year," the source said, adding that the fourth nuclear test would be much larger than the third at an equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT.
President Barack Obama pledged after this week's nuclear test "to lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats" and diplomats at the U.N. Security Council have already started discussing potential new sanctions.
The North has said the test this week was a reaction to what it said was "U.S. hostility" following its December rocket launch. Critics say the rocket launch was aimed at developing technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Read more at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-korea-north-nuclear-idUSBRE... 
2. Mali: Lessons Inform Future Partnership Efforts
The United States continues to work with international and interagency partners to support the efforts of France and the African-led international support mission to Mali to counter extremists and restore Malian sovereignty, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs told Congress on Thursday.
Amanda J. Dory was joined by Ambassador Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of African affairs, in testimony before members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta made it clear that the United States would respond as soon as feasible to French requests for assistance, as befits allies, Dory said.
Two lessons emerged from that situation, Dory told the panel.
First, a focus on capacity and capability building is not enough. There must be a shared sense of will, she said.
The second lesson, Dory said, is that to ensure that professionalism, ethics, human rights training and strategic thinking are institutionalized, it's critically important to engage at in institutional level as well.
Defense Department engagement with the Malian armed forces is currently restricted by policy because of the coup, Dory said, and there is "no consideration of putting U.S. combat forces on the ground in Mali."
"However," she added, "we continue to work to support Mali's neighbors to contain and degrade shared threats."
Resolution No. 82: Policy on Africa
Read more at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119300 
3. Building Partner Capacity Serves U.S. Interests
Programs that help U.S. partners build their capabilities can be force multipliers in achieving U.S. interests, Defense Department officials told the House Armed Services Committee here today.
"The task of training, advising and partnering with foreign military and security forces has moved from the periphery of a defense strategy to become a critical skill set across our armed forces," said Michael A. Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict.
Sheehan said the Defense Department's wide range of authorities in developing defense capabilities include training and equipping counterterrorism units, funding for two theaters of action against al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen and East Africa, and the Global Security Contingency Fund.
The Global Security Contingency Fund, he explained, is a joint program between DOD and the State Department that authorizes a pooled fund of up to $250 million to meet emergency security issues.
"The fund has shown promise as an additional authority to pursue our defense needs," Sheehan said.
Sheehan also noted other authorities that enable the United States to to ensure U.S.-equipped and trained troops are properly managed by the leadership of the host countries. In the counternarcotics arena, he added, there are authorities to build partner capacity to fight organized crime and drug trafficking groups.
"They provide training, equipment, base operations, intelligence-sharing and other support to our counternarcotics programs," he said. "We appreciate the flexibility of these counternarcotics authorities that also enable us to support efforts to attack the nexus of counterterrorism."
Sheehan acknowledged that foreign assistance is not always popular with the American public, particularly in an era of fiscal constraint. But these programs, he emphasized, have brought real results to national security.
"These are not foreign aid giveaways," he said. "These efforts take many months and years to get results, and the most important measure of effectiveness is on the battlefield."
Read more at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119301 
4. POW/MIA Update – Recently Accounted For:
Cpl. Robert G. Archer, U.S. Army, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was lost on November 20, 1950, near Hagaru-ri, North Korea. He was accounted for on Feb. 7, 2013.
Cpl. Robert W. Scott, U.S. Army, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was lost on December 1, 1950, near the Sinhung-ri, South Hamgyong Province, in North Korea. He was accounted for on Feb. 7, 2013.
John Stovall, Director
National Security / Foreign Relations Division